Renaissance Services, Inc. of Fairborn, OH recently received a $2.9M Air Force contract to support production of gearboxes and housings for out-of-production aircraft and engines. The contract, from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, located at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH combines 3D printing with structural castings to significantly reduce the time and cost to produce critical components for Air Force legacy systems. Renaissance was selected for the program to apply its proven capability in the 3D printing of ceramic tooling for sophisticated aerospace castings.
The RECHARGE program, short for Rapid Engineered Castings: Housing for Aircraft & Reliable Gearboxes for Engines, was awarded as an Air Force Rapid Innovation Fund effort to transition promising leading-edge technologies to production.
Renaissance co-founder and RECHARGE Program Manager, Robert Morris describes the need for the program: “The Air Force has a long list of critical parts for aircraft and engines that have not been produced for years. It’s not uncommon for production sources to be unknown, tooling to be nonexistent, and essential technical data to be very limited. Many of these parts start as castings. These parts can cost upwards of $50,000 each and have lead times of more than a year. By applying our 3D printing capability to produce ceramic molds, we can then work with the foundry to produce a casting to significantly reduce the lead time and address the need.”
Morris notes that the Renaissance approach feeds data directly from CAD models into its 3D printing equipment to generate the ceramic molds in a week or less. The molds are then shipped to a foundry to be used for production of castings. Renaissance and the Precision Castparts (PCC) Structurals foundry in Tilton, NH recently went from ceramic mold generation to finished casting for an Air Force engine gearbox in less than 30 days. According to Morris, this represents a lead time improvement of 90% or more when compared to the current methods for producing similar castings.
In addition to its relationship with PCC Structurals, Renaissance has enlisted the expertise of other foundries across the country as members of the RECHARGE team. Each foundry brings an important capability to the effort, including the ability to work with a wide range of materials such as aluminum, magnesium, and nickel-based alloys. An important program objective is to have a production-ready network of foundries that can rapidly respond to the needs of the Air Force.
Renaissance’s PERFECT-3D Division produces the 3D printed ceramic mold components at its fully integrated facility in Fairborn. Over the course of the RECHARGE program Renaissance and its partners will produce gearboxes and housings that meet the requirements for use on Air Force systems. A production-ready network will be ready to provide complex components rapidly and affordably. As Morris states, “It’s going to be an interesting couple of years as we prove that legacy systems don’t have to stand at the back of the line to have their critical needs met.”